Friday, March 15, 2013

30 before 30: #19 - splurge on a fancy meal out

I did something very cruel to one of my oldest, dearest friends last month - I was the decoy for her surprise 30th birthday party. The ruse to lure her into a bar where at least 30 of her friends were lying in wait involved the promise of tapas (oh yes, clearly I chose my friends based on their love of food from a very young age!). More specifically, these tapas had to be from none other than MoVida Bar de Tapas. Upon realising that there would be no tapas at her surprise party, I was quick to reassure her that a girly date at MoVida would, in fact, be her birthday present from me (albeit at a later date). Dare I say it, her relief was palpable!

More than a month after the big day, we set out to enjoy our much anticipated meal. Being a hot night, we both settled on beers - Alhumbra Negra for me (one of the most delicious cerzevas I have ever tried!) and Moritz lager for her. We requested a banquet style dining experience to minimise decision making on our parts.

Two dishes stood out as particular highlights for me - jamones, served with pan Catalan (i.e. beautiful aged ham, served with toasted bread, rubbed with garlic, tomato and drizzled with olive oil); and "Cecina" (air-dried wagyu beef with a poached egg and truffle foam). Both dishes took me straight back to Spain in terms of their flavours.

Unfortunately, my excitement at being transported back to Europe, coupled with the dim lighting in the restaurant meant that these outstanding dishes weren't captured on film. Here are a couple of grainy photos I did manage.

We finished our meal at MoVida with a serving of churros and a cheese platter. To say we were stuffed is probably an understatement.

It is clear to see why MoVida has a near cult-like following in Melbourne. The atmosphere is buzzing and the food is simply excellent.

MoVida Bar de Tapas on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 7, 2013

30 before 30: #9 - make a sweet pie from scratch

I have a confession. 
Up until last weekend I'd never before made my own pastry. 
It gets worse. 
Up until last weekend, I'd never made a sweet pie or tart of any kind. 

You have my full permission to stop reading now. All my credibility as a foodie has likely vanished. I get it.

If you're still with me at this point, please let me explain. I'm a person who likes structure generally in life, but for some reason prefer to use recipes as inspiration, rather than a step by step guide to a dish (i.e. what they're meant for). This works perfectly well for savoury dishes, breads, even some cakes, where you can taste as you go. My experimental approach to cooking does not gel so well, however, with more technique-focussed dishes, where specific quantities, ingredients and cooking times are required in order not to...well...this:

You'll be pleased to know that, while not the prettiest pie in the world, this pumpkin pie was a resounding success and most definitely not an epic fail. 

While it's clearly not the most beautiful pie to grace the face of the planet (does the word "rustic" jump to mind, anyone?), it sure as heck was tasty! I *basically* used this recipe (yup, even after recognising that such delights require me to follow a recipe, I couldn't help but make some modifications). Because pumpkin puree is not readily available in pre-made form in Australia, I wrapped my slabs of pumpkin in foil and baked in the oven for around an hour, before scooping the flesh from the skin and pulverising in the blender.  I also upped the levels of spice on all fronts - big flavours are the best. Finally, I couldn't quite get the pastry to roll out on a lightly floured bench, so I sandwiched it between two sheets of grease-proof paper and had no problem.  

The result was a most delicious dessert. And you know what? Pastry isn't as scary as I thought. It does require forethought and planning, so it may not make a regular appearance on our menus (probably a good thing for our waistlines, mind!), but I can certainly see myself adding to my tart repertoire (once a tart always a tart?!) for special occasions in the future. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

30 before 30: #16 - completely replant one of our garden beds

I always feel at peace when I make order of chaos. This is especially true when it comes to our garden. With our new house, we have inherited a beautiful, leafy garden. Most plants are hardy and were planted by real green thumbs who knew their stuff. There were, however, a few questionable plant decisions - camelias in full sun anyone?! The garden beds are also, in parts, quite cluttered. 

Overtime, we hope to simplify our outside space and get a few more edible plants into the ground. In the meantime, we have given a new lease of life to the worst hit garden bed post-Summer. As those living in Melbourne would know, this Summer has been long, hot and dry - a pretty nasty combination for flora and fauna alike! This west-facing bed copped the worst of the afternoon sun (as evidenced by our hedges in the shot below, which we're hoping will come back to life as the weather becomes more moderate). 

We chose French lavender for this bed, due to its relatively hardy nature (especially in drier conditions)...and, well, it's pretty, smells nice and generally works well with the 1920s cottage-y feel of the front of our place. 

My apologies - it's a hideous shot, I know. I can assure you that it looks really great (especially compared to the yellow, dry mess it replaced!) in reality. Now, fingers and toes crossed that it will survive Melbourne's current Autumn heat wave. To all you global warming deniers: come to Melbourne. There's no denying it!